Rise up …

Annual Juneteenth Celebration held in Dunkirk

OBSERVER Photo by Jordan W. Patterson

Dunkirk’s Memorial Park filled up Saturday and again on Sunday for one purpose — to celebrate the end of slavery.

The 22nd annual Juneteenth Celebration, sponsored by the Juneteenth 2017 Celebration Committee, was in full effect this past weekend and the theme of this year’s event was “Rise up … Restore the Dream.” The event is a day or a set of days to recognize the end of slavery and celebrate freedom for everyone.

Keeping with the theme, guest speaker Rev. Earlie Waller emphasized to the crowd, “Restore the dream.”

There was fun for everyone at the Juneteenth Celebration: food, drinks and even activities for children. The event featured bounce houses, an ice cream eating contest, face painting and even board games. New this year was a corn hole tournament.

Music was provided by the Dunkirk High School Jazz Band and a Rhythm and Blues band from Erie, Pa., called Familiar Spirit.

There was also a Juneteenth Basket Raffle that included a Buffalo Bills No. 85 Charles Clay and No. 99 Marcell Dareus laser signed photograph.

Several different organizations in attendance were the Chautauqua County Office for the Aging, Jamestown Community College, Cassadaga Job Corps, Edinboro University, the Upward Bound Program, Literacy Volunteers, Chautauqua County Health Department, New York State Troopers, Chautauqua County Hospice, Chautauqua County Red Cross, Chautauqua Opportunities, Inc., Dunkirk School District Pre-K Program and the United States Army.

On Sunday, the Gospel Fest began with performances by the Friendship Baptist Church Choir.

Waller was in attendance and spoke to the Sunday crowd just before the rain came down.

“Joy … great joy. Soul saving joy down in my soul,” Waller began.

Waller then reiterated the story of The Exodus and the freedom of the Israelites. The message of the story was that the ones closest to one another are sometimes the ones who “grumble” the most, according to Waller.

Another message within his story was that the place of departure may sometimes look better than the destination, at times.

“We are grateful here this afternoon to come and to try to share the Word with you, our Father’s children,” Waller said and then joked about the imminent rain. Waller also acknowledged what day it was and wished all fathers in attendance a happy Father’s Day.

Though the day was about the progress in the country, Waller admitted there is still a long way to go.

“We can remove the chain but so many times there are so many obstacles still in our way as we go forward,” Waller said.

Waller emphasized his final message, “Hold on and never give up.”